University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
E-Mail: sonneven [at] umich.edu
Stories Without Borders:
The Making of a Global Iconic Event
Focusing on journalists covering the fall of the Berlin Wall and on subsequent retellings of the event (from Legoland reenactments to anniversary celebrations to slabs of the Berlin Wall installed in shopping malls), she discusses how storytellers build up certain events so that people in many parts of the world remember them for long periods of time. How do particular events become lasting global myths, while others fade into oblivion? The East German border opening that we now summarize as the “fall of the Berlin Wall” was in fact unintentional, confusing, and prompted in part by misleading media coverage of bureaucratic missteps. But its global message is not about luck or accident or happenstance in history. Incarnated as a global iconic event, the “fall of the Berlin Wall” has come to communicate the momentary power that vulnerable ordinary people can have. The event’s story, condensed into a simple phrase, a short narrative and a recognizable visual scene continues to travel successfully through time, space, and media, providing people from China to Turkey to Israel with a contemporary social myth.